Aug 31, 2009

Re-Fighting World War II

World War II might have ended, but the battle over World War II has exploded into one big mess of screaming headlines, "shocking revelations" and national pride.

First up to bat, the editors of the Polish newspaper Super Express commemorated the 70th anniversary of World War II with a front-page photo of the Katyn massacre and the headline: “Russia! Apologize for your crimes!"


Then Putin tried to calm things down in advance of his visit to Poland by publishing an op-ed in Gazeta Wyborcza condemning the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.

But before anyone could hope that Putin might transform the Russian-Polish relationship into a magical land of bunnies and rainbows, the Russian Intelligence Service (SVR) decided this was a good time to announce that Jozef Beck, Poland’s pre-war Foreign Minister, was really a secret German agent. Yet, more evidence that Poland is to blame for starting World War II.

...Never mind that business with the Nazis. Or the fact that Hitler and Stalin agreed to carve up Poland like a Christmas ham. The Poles were to blame and their leaders where spies.

Happy anniversary everyone!

Nothing Happens in August*

*except a lot of awful, confusing things.

So earlier this month, my favorite Slate contributor, Anne Applebaum, wrote an article, "Four global crises that could ruin your vacation." The short version: August is well-known as a slow news month always. However, horrible things tend to happen in August: the start of World War I, Iraq's invasion of Kuwait...

Well it got me thinking, and surpise surprise, August is a rather busy month for Eternal Remont. And I thought I'd take a minute and reflect on the last 3 Augusts ER has covered.

2007: Canada and Stephen Colbert freak out when Russia claims the Arctic by taking a submarine into international waters and placing a Russian flag on the sea floor. Meanwhile back on dry land, a Russian woman sets her ex-husband's genitals on fire. That was a weird and zany August.

2008: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn passed away right before the Russians and Georgians started a war. However, the world was too busy marveling at Michael Phelps and wondering just how old those little Chinese gymnasts were (I still can't believe those medals haven't been stripped). Also, Ukraine's autonomy was once again put into question.

And this year, 2009: The North Caucasus suffers a "relapse." But to keep us in better spirits, we also enjoyed a new tale from the sea: Ice Pirates.

Dear Eurasia, for August 2010 I encourage more zany arctic exploits and much less trouble in the Caucasus. Deal?

Aug 28, 2009

R.I.P. Soviet Anthem

In case you didn't year, Sergei V. Mikhalkov, the "father" of the Soviet (and now Russian) national anthem, has died. He was 96. Since life expectancies are now calculated in dog years for most Russian males, this alone was a heroic feat worthy of a Shock Trooper of Socialist Labor.

True fact: Sergei Mikhalkov was the fater of Burnt by the Sun director Nikita Mikhalkov. Nikita has turned into something of a strange bird these days, but the artistic symmetry is compelling.

Aug 27, 2009

Madonna Contraverses Eastern Europe

Since August 15, I've ignored several Madonna in Eastern Europe stories, because 1. I haven't liked any of her songs since "Human Nature" and 2. you're too old to be causing this much trouble, Madonna. Are you addicted to people hating you, Material Girl? In any case, there are too many stories, so I caved.

We start in Poland, where Madonna happened to be on tour on August 15 - her birthday and the Assumption - a Catholic Holy Day of Obligation. So on this one, she really didn't do anything. People were just mad that she was there. Said Lech Walesa to concert organizers: "Please avoid any collision with my faith during this extraordinary day." Couldn't find any source on whether or not she sang "Like a Prayer."

Onto Romania, where after performing with Roma dancers during a concert this Wednesday, Madonna condemned widespread discrimination against Roma. Polite applause quickly turned into angry booing. No word if anything was stolen from the stage.

And finally, we stop in Bulgaria, where the Orthodox Church has blasted a planned Madonna concert in Sofia this weekend, accusing the 51-year old pop singer of showing disrespect to Christianity and has urged Bulgarians to stay away from the show. The Church sites her choreography as sending a bad message that is contrary to Christian beliefs. Yeah, too many examples to support the Church's claim there.

Aug 26, 2009

The Saga Continues: "But is it Racist?"

PC World reports that, "Microsoft apologized Wednesday after a Polish version of the company's ad had a black man's head replaced with the head of a white man."

While you're not going to find the altered image online (the Polish version now shows the image of work-place diversity), you can ponder Microsoft's painfully bad PhotoShop skills.

My only question: Will Apple create an app for this on the iPhone?

Copy Cat

Earlier this week, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was given a Bengal albino tiger cub as a this story seems familiar. Apparently Yulia wants to take it to negotiations with her when it grows up. If so, this could be the first step towards the now annual Ukrainian-Russian gas price renegotiations that we will actually be excited to watch. I wonder which of his many gifted animals Putin would take....apparently he has been given enough to open up several zoos.

However, we know Putin is good at taking down wild cats so I guess this is not the solution to bilateral relations after all.

Russia Now, How We've Missed You

Like the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano, the Winter Solstice and the start of Dacha season, everyone is cheering about the return of Rossisskaya Gazeta’sRussia Now” advertizing supplement in the WashPost. This one has to be a collector's edition, since it spotlights Russia’s Black Community, or, "African-Russians." Strangely, this is not the word you typically hear in Russia. How odd.

Other gems:

“Some of Vladimir Putin’s popularity comes from his ‘strongman’ image. [But] How does this affect Russia’s relations with other countries?”

Or did you know that…

“During the Obamas’ recent visit to Moscow, First Lady Michelle garnered respect from the Russian press for ‘Working the White house like a dacha.'”

Which brings us to the hardest working man in the Crimea, Joachim Crima (aka “The Russian Obama”). The editors give Crima a nice little shout-out on page 3, and even offer us a heavily sanitized translation of his campaign slogan.

“Crima was using the common Russian expression for working hard as his campaign slogan.”

But what's that “common Russian expression,” you ask? Wouldn't readers want to know? This is the edition that spotlights Russia's Black Community after all.

Let's just say our "common Russian expression" speaks to the same kind of sensitivity and cultural understanding that Gazprom demonstrated when it formed the Nigaz joint venture.

(Here you go.)

Aug 25, 2009

Ice Pirates: "Free to move around" Moscow

In one of the least surprising twists of the year, Russian investigators have admitted that the Arctic Sea might have been carrying something more sensitive than a pile of wood.

"We do not rule out the possibility that [the Arctic Sea] might have been carrying not only timber," said lead investigator Alexander Bastrykin.
Bastrykin did not elaborate. But his words are a welcome breeze of honestey -- however obscure. For now, even money bets say the ship was transporting an illegal load of conventional arms. The long shots say it was more like a nuclear device.

Either way, two of the pirates (Dmitry "Red Beard" Bartenev and Vitaly "One Eye" Lepin) are back in Moscow, appealing their arrest. Oddly, Russian officials claim they are “free to move around the city and had cell phones on them to call their families."

Blackbeard never had it so good.

Meanwhile, the Arctic Sea is sailing back to Russian waters -- the contents of its cargo hold are still unknown.

Emin and Adnan need your support

My last post was on a protest in Washington, DC to take place on Friday on behalf of Azeri bloggers. Today RFE/RL reports that Emin Milli and Adnan Hadji-zadeh remain in prison and have now been charged with assault on top of the hooliganism charge.

These young men were assaulted in a restaurant earlier this summer. They reported the incident and instead of finding justice, they themselves were arrested for hooliganism. If you can, please show your support for their release this Friday in front of the Azerbaijani embassy in DC.

Aug 24, 2009

Protest at the Azerbaijan Embassy in DC

I know many of our readers live or work in the Washington, DC area, and also we've been covering the cases of Emin Milli (Abdullaev) and Adnan Hadji-zadeh since July 9, so I hope this is of interest to some of you. Here are the details:

What: Rally in support of Emin Milli (Abdullaev) and Adnan Hadji-zadeh
When: Friday, August 28, 2009,4-6PM
Where: in front of Azerbaijani Embassy (shown above), 2741 34th Street NW, Washington, DC 20008 (a short walk from the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and 34th Street NW ).
Closest metro station: Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan (red line).

- demand immediate release from detention of the arrested youth activists - protest the violation of their rights
- demand fair investigation and trial of their case, and also impartial justice for their attackers
- protest the suppression of free speech and prosecution of journalists and political and civil activists in Azerbaijan

What to bring: US and Azerbaijani flags, posters will be provided.

Tuberculosis on the rise in Russia

According to the Washington Post, Russia's severe TB problem is about to get much worse, increasing the risk that the dangerous drug-resistant strains that are common here will spread, causing outbreaks elsewhere. It seems the economic crisis is leading to a health crisis. Decreased living standards and poor access to medicine are just a couple reasons the TB problem has worsened and is likely to get much worse. Also to blame? The government. They didn't so much do a great job at ordering supplies last year.

Treatment for TB is free, but Russia's chief epidemiologist, Gennady Onishchenko, warned in a 2007 report that only 9 percent of the country's TB hospitals met basic hygiene standards, nearly a fifth suffered shortages of required drugs and more than 40 percent lacked adequate medical equipment. Some didn't have sewage systems or running water, he said.

US and Uzbekistan sign military agreement

Why? The US is already paying the nation's social security money on Manas Air Base, they need Uzbekistan, too?

According to, last week Uzbek Minister of Defense Kabul Bedriev and US General David Petraeus signed a military agreement for future trainings and exchanges. Before signing the agreement the generals discussed key security issues regarding Afghanistan.

I get that there aren't many good options for friends who are also in close proximity to Afghanistan, but Uzbekistan? Really?

Aug 23, 2009

European Integration is SO 2004

(If you have access, read this article from the New York Times.)

Remember 2004? The War on Terror still had some support. The W was re-elected. A Romanian pop song was somehow made popular by a youtube video of a chubby white boy lip syncing. In America, banks were giving million dollar loans to people barely making 40K. They bought enormous houses which they couldn't even afford to heat. And in Europe, the EU endeavored to make East European countries full members. Banks in Western Europe were handing out loans to Eastern Europe like it was their J-O-B.

Fast forward to 2009. The War on Terror barely gets news. Why? Obama is trying to convince people he won't kill their grandmothers. There are too many youtube videos to even keep track. Forclosure is all the rage in America. In Europe, the EU will not alter criteria for membership -- making it nearly impossible to expand further eastward. Companies in Hungary and Bulgaria are left with huge debts and essentially left on their own to cope with the crisis. Oh and don't think of trying to find a job in Western Europe. They don't want you and are passing laws to keep you out.

I do miss 2004:

Medvedev Takes on Alcoholism

He clearly has flat out stopped caring about how the Russian population views him. Gorbachev tried this, too, Medvezhyonok. It didn't really boost his popularity at all. Of course, Russians recently listed alcoholism as the biggest threat to the country (a bigger threat than NATO expansion). This could work. Good luck with this decision. I respect it.

According to Yahoo News, Medvedev intends to start a war on alcoholism. The facts: every Russian man, woman and child consumes the equivalent of 4.8 gallons (18 liters) of pure rubbing alcohol per year, according to the National Institute of Health. Real quick, how do any Russians make it past age 30? They must have super livers to consume that much alcohol.

Anyway, Medvedev's plan: raise taxes on alcohol, toughen labeling laws and ban the sale of alcohol at kiosks and small stores, allowing only big retail outlets a safe distance from any schools, universities, or leisure centers to sell booze. The Duma is apparently on board. We'll see what happens when they reconvene in the fall.

Aug 22, 2009

Time does not heal Slovak wounds

Maybe they just need another decade or so.

According to the New York Times, Hungarian President Laszlo Solyom canceled a private visit to Slovakia on Friday after the Slovak government called the trip a provocation. Prime Minister Robert Fico of Slovakia said Solyom was not welcome on August 21, the 41st anniversary of the Soviet-led invasion of what was then Czechoslovakia, because the Hungarian Army was part of the invading force.

Solyom has been in the news before for his views on foreign travel. Once he became president in 2005, he promised not to visit the US, as long as he would have to be fingerprinted at the border. Perhaps he would have preferred the retnal eye scan?

In any case, Hungarian-Slovak relations have been deteriorating for a few years now, ever since Fico formed a coalition in 2006 with Ján Slota, who is known for his frequent vulgar, defamatory and hatred-inciting anti-Roma and anti-Hungarian remarks. Central Europe, I don't know why, but I expected more from you.

Aug 21, 2009

Is Everyone in Tver an Extremist?

This has to be the best story of the year from our friends at the Russian Justice Ministry. Folowing up on the Winnie-the-Pooh-and-the-swastika business, the new extrimist list also has all sorts of implications for Russia's cities and oblasts. Especially the ones with crosses prominetly displyed on their flags and official seals.

We're talking to you Moscow and Tver!

Yes, the new regulation will brand everyone from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Bornholm, Faeroe Islands, Götaland, The Orkney Islands, The Shetland Islands, Skåneland, Scania, Småland, Wineland, Öland, and Aaland an extremist by police. In fact, under the strictest reading of the law, all Danish, Finish, Swedish, and Norwegian passport holders could technically be arrested on the spot for carrying extremist material on their person.

Not going to pay the “shtraf?” I see you’re in possession of extremist material.

That's my passport.

It's extremist material. Come with me.

But the worst part is that the Justice Ministery's own list will also make it a crime to fly any flag depicting the Russian state seal. Is everyone in a Moscow government building an extremist? What about the residents of Tver? According to the Ministry’s new list, the answer is yes.

All "flags with crosses" must be confiscated by authorities. Any person in possession of said flag is to be fined and imprisoned. If they are already under arrest, “extremism” is to be added to the charges.

We suspect that someone at the Justice Ministry didn’t think this one through completely. However, questioning the decisions of authorities is also dangerously close to extremist activity these days. For your safety Luzhkov, we suggest you take down the Russian state seal before anyone arrests you for extremism.

(Props Leopolis!)

Winnie the Extremist

Cheers to "Ani" for this story. Also, hoping that the Moscow Times was recently bought out by The Onion. This story is a little ridiculous.

According to the Moscow Times, the Russian Justice Ministry recently published an updated and much longer list of extremist materials on the Internet. Among the new materials destroying Russia: Winnie the Pooh wearing a swastika, a self-made template for a future newspaper, comic or other print materials, and a flag with a cross. That's right. Switzerland is destroying Russia. I never bought their "neutrality" cover.

If caught with extremist material, a private individual faces a fine of up to 3,000 rubles ($95) and up to 15 days in jail, while a legal entity could be fined up to 100,000 rubles ($3,150) and closed for up to 90 days. No criminal charges would apply. So look for future posts about people affected by this updated list.

Excommunicating like it's 1799

The Moscow Times reports that the Russian Orthodox Church has cursed and excommunicated Pskov journalist Oleg Dementyev for “satanic lies” in accusing the abbess of a monastery of scaring locals into selling their homes for “peanuts.”

"The church used excommunication and the anathema ecclesiastical curse as powerful weapons against its enemies under the tsars but rarely imposes the sanctions today."

Dementyev has had this coming, as most honest Russians have it coming. Aside from his "peanuts" claim, he was also recently found guilty of libel for accusing the lay sisters at the Spaso-Yeleazarovsky Monastery of smoking and drinking in their robes. He also affixed this title to said article: “A Wasp’s Nest Under Golden Domes.” I would comment that this title might be a little over the top, but people in glass houses can't throw stones (see most of my previous posts).

Dementyev stands by his articles and believes there is ongoing corruption at the monastery. No word on whether he will choose another church.

Yulia's mouth is writing checks...

...her body can't cash.

Let me just start by saying, I love Pani Yulia's blog. This woman is really a true politican. She's a personal hero. Anyway, two things stood out on her blog this week.

1. Tymoshenko has publically stated that she honestly believes that the airport and stadium will be built in Lviv in plenty of time for the Euro-2012 games. Really? Really? You can't even promise housing to many of your citizens. Hey maybe if it does get completed in time, you can hoard a bunch of Ukrainians to live in the stadium like President Bush did with the Katrina victims. People still love Bush for that. Really good career move. Think about it.

2. While Yulia was in Lviv, she also made a promise that Russian would never become a second state language in Ukraine at least while she's in power. Really? Really? First, a good number of Ukrainians still speak Russian as a first language. Second, you seem to have no problem with listing Russian as the second language on your Blog. Just saying.

Russia Goes After Another Blogger

According to the NYT, Russian blogger Mikhail Afanasyev has been using his blog to suggest (very strongly, maybe makes wild accusations) that official reports on the recent hydroelectric plant disaster in Siberia have been watered down (bad pun, sorry). Anyway, Afanasyev claims there are more workers missing than has been reported. Whether he has evidence of this or perhaps he simply is a conspiracy theorist, I cannot be sure, but the authorities aren't taking any risks. Yesterday, local authorities charged Afanasyev with libel of the Sayano-Shushenskaya plant’s owners.

It's good to know rule of law does exist in Russia when it's convenient.

Grozny: One of the World's Most Active Atro-cities

Update on the crisis/status quo in the Caucasus: According to the NY Times, today suicide bombers on bicycles killed at least four police officers in separate attacks in Grozny, Chechnya. This is the latest instance of violence/terrorism in Chechnya. A truck was exploded earlier this week killing 25. There have also been at least 3 kidnappings and murders in the Caucasus in the last month.

Aug 20, 2009

Russia: Cash Reserves Fall, Zombie Risk Rises

Global markets may have stabilized, but Putin’s government continues to burn cash at a mind-boggling rate.

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Russia's international reserves declined by $2.8 billion to stand at $400.6 billion during the week ended Aug. 14, the central bank reported Thursday in a statement posted on its Web site.
To anyone else, $400 billion may seem like a lot of money. However, most of Russia's reserves are already spoken for (mostly as collateral on foreign debt). With only $400 billion left in the tanks, Russia moves closer to a dangerous financial tipping point.

Back in December 2008, Moody's Investors Service Vice President Jonathan Schiffer (a man who's opinion means a lot for Russia's credit rating) spoke publicly about the very, very bad things which could happen if the country's foreign reserves ever fell below $350 billion: risk of default, Night of the Living Dead kind of bad things.

But why loose sleep over minor details? Just picture the beautiful slopes of the Sochi Olympics...with zombies!

(Ok, zombie banks.)

Aug 19, 2009

Ice Pirates...Melt Off Africa

The Pirated/Not Pirated saga of the missing Russian freighter Arctic Sea is over…sort of.

By the time Russian agents stormed the vessel off the coast of West Africa this week, the eight pirates/hijackers/ransomers had already thrown their weapons overboard, making them the most wanted stowaways in the world.

Oficially, our [formerly-armed] stowaways attempted to ransom the Arctic Sea’s lumber, worth $1.8 million. But we note that, as of yet, no-one has verified the contents of the cargo. It’s doubtful we’ll ever know the true fate of the limited edition Obama matryoshka dolls.

On the up side, the event has made history, since it was the first act of piracy in European waters in centuries. Pretty good considering that, by the end, the crew of the Arctic Sea was held against their will by nothing more than a menacing glare and body odor.

Azeris get arrested abroad, too; Russia reconsiders deals with Iran

Iran might have just released French researcher Clotilde Reiss, but Azerbaijan and Russia still have some issues to work out.

According to the Association for the Defense of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners in Iran, July was a hard month for many Azerbaijani citizens in Iran. Most notably, Azerbaijani journalist and human rights activist Said Matinpur was detained after he was summoned to the Revolutionary Court of Tehran. He was then transferred to Evin Prison to serve his 8-year jail term. He was charged with having "connections with foreigners" (he himself is a foreigner so I'm not sure how that applies, but hey it's Iran, I'm not sure how you stay out of prison in Iran) and of course his trial was not public.

Meanwhile, Medvedev has had a change of heart about selling weapons to Iran. According to AP, the president promises he will reconsider the sale of S-300s to Iran because it affects the delicate balance which exists in the Middle East. That just dawned on you, Medvezhonok?

Stray Dogs in Moscow Take the Metro to Work

According to and a number of other Web sites you've never heard of, biology professor Andrew Poyarkov said he had seen several dogs unaccompanied on the Moscow's metro system, something people have been noticing for at least a year. There's actually a website devoted to pictures of stray dogs on the metro.

Dr. Poyarkov believes these dogs aren't just accidentally roaming into the subway, however. He believes the dogs are going to work. He claims the dogs travel into the city center, where they can more easily find food, each morning and travel back to where they live each evening.

What kind of world do we live in, where dogs have to commute?

If liking Armenians is a crime...

...oh wait, it seems that liking Armenians in Azerbaijan is kind of being considered a crime. Direct from FP Passport:

Three months after this year's Eurovision Song Contest, an unconfirmed number of Azerbaijanis who voted for the Armenian entry have been brought in for questioning by the police. One man said he was accused of being unpatriotic and a "potential security threat." Authorities said people were simply invited to explain their voting choices.

Frightening and hilarious. However, before you judge the Azerbaijani authorities for overreacting, look at the Armenian Eurovision entry from this year. I got some questions for people who voted for this.

Russia Adheres to Playground Rules

First of all, there's a lot of news to cover today, so I apologize for over posting today, but they're all quality, I promise.

According to the NYTimes: Russia expelled two Czech diplomats today, a day after Czech media reported that two Russians, including a deputy military attaché, had been expelled from Prague. The Czechs had complained about Russian spying, which it says is related to American plans to install a radar base in the Czech Republic. The Russians as always expelled two Czechs because the having two of their own expelled required an "adequate response." Meanwhile Putin is waiting under the monkey bars, Jan Fischer. And he means business.

Aug 18, 2009

Belarus: Equal Opportunity Hater

You know, who says Belarus has to pick a side: East or West? Belarus has the right to hate on both sides.

According to the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), this week the Hrodna Region Public Prosecutor’s Office sent an official warning to reporter Andrzej Pisalnik for attempting "to distribute printed publications that contain no output data." What does that mean? Well, Mr. Pisalnik writes in Polish, and things in Polish are hard to read, so God knows what he's been writing about for the Rzeczpospolita newspaper, a publication of the Union of Poles. Best to nip that in the bud and warn him now. Good work, Hrodna.

Meanwhile, also according to the BAJ, on August 15, Russian TV journalists Aleksei Malkov and Yury Babenko were deported from Belarus. They came to Belarus to film a documentary about public figures, who had disappeared in Belarus, including journalist Dzmitry Zavadski. So, good news, you got deported, not disappeared.

So maybe these incidents don't show us whether or not Belarus favors Europe or Russia. One thing is for sure, Belarus does not want you to know what it is up to.

Aug 17, 2009

Russia's Strange Hydrocarbon Folk

I think we can just about call this a trend, now that our friends at LukOil have added to the growing collection of Russia's strange hydrocarbon folk music ("Let's Drink to the Russian Gas"). Did you know, for example:

Oil doesn’t have a woman’s demeanor

Oil has the demeanor of man...

Thanks LukOil. We've always felt that oil could use a anthropomorphic make-over, accessorized with the tasteful addition of sexism and misogyny.

There's probably an explanation for these odes to hydrocarbons, something about the Soviet habit of granting everyone a theme song (border guards, butchers, kolkhozniki) and the way it has infected Russia's post-Soviet culture.

But that doesn't soften the weird.

(Thanks Amichka!)

Punk rock dissidents take on the big bear

Awesome article from YahooNews today about St. Petersburg punk rock band PTVP or "The Last Tanks in Paris."

Lead Singer Nikonov saves much of his venom for LL Cool P (Ladies Love Cool Putin), referring to him as a "pig" in one of his most strident songs. Some lyrics from the band's 2002 hit "FSB Whore," for your enjoyment:

"Don't listen to anything! / He always lies to you! / Putin, Putin, Putin! / A pig will find filth everywhere!"

10 points to the first person you finds this song on YouTube.

Russian Population Way Down

This weekend was horrendous for Russian people. A lot of people died. So many incidents that I'm going to shove them into one post.

Today, a suicide bomber attacked a police station in Russia's North Caucasus with an explosives-laden truck, killing at least 20 and wounding at least 60. Experts are looking into how there's anyone or anything left to blow up in the Caucasus.(YahooNews)

Also today, 8 people were killed and 54 went missing when a turbine room flooded at Russia's largest hydropower station RusHydro in Siberia. When will be learn? Going green just doesn't work! (NY Times)

On Sunday, 2 Russian air force jets rehearsing aerobatic maneuvers collided near Moscow, killing stunt pilot Col. Igor Tkachenko. (NY Times)

Small request, Russia: Take the week off. Stop with the terrorism. Check the powerplants for kinks that might kill people. Leave your planes grounded. We love you. Stay safe.

Boys' Night Out

In case you missed it, Putin and Medvedev went out for a beer last week. We'll at least Putin did.

In fact, Putin seemed to be the only part of Team Tandem that knew how to sit in a bar and watch the game – even if he was bored out of his mind. Medvedev ordered tea.

And before anyone asks about Medvedev's awesome jacket-hoodie combo (it's still August, right?), we have it on good authority that Russia's president is preparing to audition for the role of Action in an up-coming production of West Side Story.

(Props to Leopolis & Igor!) Here's the link, since the video is buggy.

Aug 15, 2009

Cash for Kalashnikovs

Quick note, I seriously came up with this title for this post before I read the entire NYT article and realized that they really are offering money for kalashnikovs in South Ossetia. I am behind this idea.

According to the NY Times, because Russia has guaranteed security for South Ossetia, South Ossetia is now asking residents to turn in their weapons. The police plan to offer $300 to $400 for each Kalashnikov rifle, a top official said.

So far, the police have collected or confiscated 100 machine guns — among them 15 American-made M-4 carbines, presumably lost by Georgian soldiers — and 110 pounds of explosives. In the near future, the police are planning to offer citizens from $370 to $470 in exchange for turning in guns and other weapons.

History lesson: Ossetians began collecting arsenals of kalashnikovs after their first clash with Georgians in 1989, where the weapon of choice was a wooden bat and during which 6 people died. Ossetians, out of a desire to protect themselves in the next inevitable clash, started trading Ladas and whole cows for kalashnikovs. Side note, I'm pretty sure even semi-healthy cows are more valuable than Ladas. I hope cow traders got twice as many kalashnikovs.

Aug 14, 2009

Radio Liberty? More like Radio Karimov's Puppet!

According to, the Uzbek Opposition Birdamlik started a hunger strike on August 10 in front of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty HQ in Washington, DC, USA. It seems these 18 individuals are upset that RFE/RL censors its Uzbek service (Radio Ozodlik) and does not allow air time for opposition leaders. They have set up tents and will continue their hunger strike until their demands are met.

It is reported that Martins Zvaners, the public relations deputy director of Radio Liberty, met the protesters and promised them time for an interview so that they can announce their requirements in the extended format and answer questions raised by RFE/RL management and listeners. However, no one has showed up to interview the protesters yet.

The hunger strike goes on, though one of the protesters, age 73, might end his participation early. Meanwhile other Uzbek opposition leaders have joined the protest by starting hunger strikes in Prague and Stockholm.

What I take from this? 1. It's too bad Karimov's regime is so efficient at keeping the people down that the opposition is not living IN the country. 2. Uzbek opposition, you are welcome to create YouTube videos, and I am happy to post them.

Aug 13, 2009

Ice Pirates!

Now it’s getting interesting.

After spending most of the week dusting off bad pirate jokes from last year's Faina hijacking (Dude Where's My Freighter?), it looks like the latest saga in pirated freighters might not be piracy after all…


"I think there was probably some sort of secret cargo on this vessel, not criminal but secret, and a third party of some sort did not want the cargo to get to another party so this highly sophisticated operation was cooked up," said Mikhail Boytenko, editor of Russia's respected Sovfracht maritime journal. "I don't think that it was pirates who took this vessel but it really smells of some sort of state involvement. This is real cloak and dagger stuff, like a (John) le Carre novel."

If Boytenko is right, we suspect the culprits have made off with the one thing people are really willing to kill for, a secret shipment of limited edition Obama matryoshka dolls.

The Kremlin's "Cash for Ladas" Program

Who says the U.S. is out of good ideas? Russia has unveiled it's own "cash for clunkers" plan, giving everyone in the country $1,500 for their trade-in...

...minus, of course, all the pesky details over fuel efficiency.

"The car has to be running, it should be registered with the traffic police and it should have all of the necessary documents," said the ministry's automotive industry director Alexei Rakhmanov.

Seeing that Putin likes to take a hands-on approach to policy, may we suggest putting him in the TV commercial? Better yet, let's get Putin in an oversized cowboy hat and force him to read lines like:

"I need to freedomize, this Ford Explorer!"

Aug 12, 2009

Ukrainian Seamen

and flight attendants don't mix. (Thanks to Igor for this story)

According to the Aviation Herald, a drunken Ukrainian seaman, aged 27, recently disrupted a transatlantic Lufthansa flight from Sao Paulo to Frankfurt. Since the flight attendants couldn't calm him down, they asked passengers to help out. The unnamed Ukrainian was then "helped to calm down" by some fellow Ukrainian seamen.

Upon his arrival in Germany, the Ukrainian was taken to a hospital by police because it seemed to German police that the "help" the drunkard received was indeed a fractured skull.

It turns out, the Ukrainian's skull was not fractured, and he was promptly put on a flight back to Ukraine...Classic.

How women view themselves...

So, random post, but I thought interesting. And I really like the photos.

ShootNations recently held its 2009 competition. This year it focused on gender roles, and the big winner is Monika Urbutyte, 17, of Lithuania. It was a global contest so, awesome job. Here is her winning self portrait:

And, one of the honorable mentions was from Ukraine, Olena Fedorenko, 22. Gotta say, I dig this pic.

Aug 11, 2009

Oppressed Journalist Roundup

Oh former Soviet Union, are there any rights you won't trample on?

Kazakhstan (Reuters): Ramazan Yesergepov, the owner and editor of Alma Ata Info newspaper, was sentenced to 3 years in prison this week for publishing a letter he said revealed the links between a businessman and the National Security Committee (KNB). He had been arrested for this in January. Kazakhstan, which had pledged to liberalize laws before taking on the OSCE chairmanship in 2010, has said this year it would not fully implement legal reforms recommended by the OSCE.

Azerbaijan (Reports Without Borders): A Baku court today rejected another complaint by detained bloggers Emin Milli and Adnan Hadji-Zadeh, this one accusing the interior ministry, the prosecutor’s office and the Baku police of failing to respect the principle that a person is presumed innocent until proved guilty. They have been in jail for two months for political satire, basically.

Daghestan (RFE/RL): Malik Akhmedilov, a leading correspondent for the daily newspaper "Hakikat" (The Truth) -- published in the Avar language -- was found dead in a car on the outskirts of Daghestan's capital, Makhachkala. He had been recognized for his investigative articles about the unsolved assassinations of high-ranking officials in the volatile Russian republic.

Who’s Dressing Medvedev?

We have no idea who’s been dressing Medvedev these days, but someone needs to put down the vampire books. Otherwise, we can only assume that dressing like a vampire CEO is the appropriate attire for putting a beat-down on Ukraine.

On his blog (yes, Medvedev has a blog), everyone’s favorite president figured this would be a good time to give Ukraine some pointers on how to run a country. The highlights:

1) Nikolai Gogol is now the “son of both Ukrainian and Russian peoples.” (Glad we sorted that out.)

2)“Illusions” motivate the Ukrainian government’s view of Russia.

3) “The leadership in Kiev took an openly anti-Russian stand after the Georgia War.” This is not allowed under Section 6 of the “Official Rules for Former Soviet Republics” handbook. (Ukraine, you should have received a copy at orientation.)

Lastly, Medvedev noted:

“I hope that the new leadership of Ukraine will be ready for the break through” in relations with Russia.

This was the official translation. A more accurate translation could read, “Tymoshenko: You. Me. Disco.”

Mona Lisa Still Smiles

According to YahooNews, on August 2 a Russian woman smuggled in a ceramic cup into the Louvre and threw it at the Mona Lisa. Why? Because she was frustrated that she didn't get approved to become a French National. It makes sense if you're a crazy Russian woman desperate to be a French citizen. I don't know why she decided to attack a piece of art to show frustration over citizenship.

Anyway, the Mona Lisa was not harmed.


Stop Kidnapping and Killing Human Rights Activists in Chechnya! Enough Is Enough!

Memorial's Alexander Cherkasov told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the bodies of Zarema Sadulayeva and her husband were found near the Chechen capital Grozny. He did not have immediate information on the cause of death. Sadulayeva's group works with helping children in the war-battered Russian republic.

She was helping children. Children!

Aug 10, 2009

Why Do Dictators Love Kitsch?

Remember the horrendous backdrop of the Clinton-Kim Jong Il photo? Eric Gibson over at the Wall Street Journal does. Today, he has an excellent article on the eternal love between ruthless dictators and their bizarre monuments to totalitarian kitsch:

“This is no ordinary painting but art with a purpose. What seem to our eye as limitations are the result of deliberate intent. It’s a piece of political propaganda. As such it belongs to a subspecies of kitsch known as totalitarian kitsch, where art’s sole raison d’etre is to bolster a dictatorial regime and glorify its leader.”

All of this is well and good, but I wonder how Gibson would classify the monstrosity below. It's one form of political propaganda that will forever be seared on my retinas.

"If you're the police, who will police the police?"

Homer Simpson suggested the Coast Guard. I think it's high time for a full overhaul. According to the New York Times, Mr. Denis V. Yevsyukov went on a shooting spree and killed an 18-year-old. Mr. Yevsyukov is a police officer. Sigh.

"After the shootings, Russian officials declared that they would move quickly to address the troubled Moscow police force, and President Dmitri A. Medvedev took the unusual step of firing Moscow’s police chief, Vladimir V. Pronin."

Mr. Yevsyukov apparently has been written up many times for a number of instances of misconduct including abusing other officers. Yet, he managed to get promoted and be considered a sort of protégé.

"Mr. Yevsyukov spent the evening before the shootings celebrating his birthday at a Moscow cafe, according to investigators. For reasons that are still unclear, Mr. Yevsyukov left the cafe intoxicated, went home and put on his uniform jacket over his civilian clothing. He also grabbed a Makarov 9-millimeter pistol."

Russia's just falling apart.

Government Housing Boom in Ukraine

Apparently bread lines have been replaced with apartment lines in Ukraine. According to Pani Yulia's blog, the government plans to buy more than 10,000 unfinished apartments by the end of 2009 to give to special categories of people waiting in line for housing. 2 billion UAH from the State Mortgage Office will be used to purchase the apartments.

Why these people are waiting for houses, I'm not sure. But lets hope the bureaucracy doesn't muck up a seemingly decent idea.

Aug 8, 2009

How *Not* to Silence a Critic

The Denial of Service attacks against Twitter and other social networking sites continued over the weekend, giving Georgian blogger "Cyxymu" a global platform for his ideas and world-wide media exposure. This is probably not the best way to silence a critic, Russia.

However, the best quote award has to go to Chief Research Officer over at F-Secure:

"Launching DDoS attacks against services like Facebook is the equivalent of bombing a TV station because you don't like one of the newscasters."
...Welcome to the party pal.

Aug 7, 2009

Did the Kremlin Kill Twitter?

Yesterday, as blood poured down from the heavens, the seas boiled and the Earth was ripped apart because of the Denial of Service attack against Google, Twitter and Facebook (“OMG, I can’t tweet about the fact that Twitter is down!) we pondered one alluring possibility: is Russia involved?

Maybe. We do know that the disruption of all social networking on the planet was directed at one person:
BBC: "The massively co-ordinated attack on websites including Google, Facebook and Twitter was directed at one individual, a pro-Georgian blogger known as Cyxymu… Specifically, the person is an activist blogger and a botnet was directed to request his pages at such a rate that it impacted service for other users."
Keep in mind, this was on the one year anniversary of the Russia-Georgia war, and Kremlin IP addresses have been used to launch DoS attacks against Estonia (and others) in the past.
"Maybe it was carried out by ordinary hackers but I'm certain the order came from the Russian government," Cyxymu said.
The good news, is that Google was able to repel the attack. The bad news, is that the Russia-Georgia cyber war prevented me from making a Facebook update.

The horror!

[Update: If you're interested, PC World has a tech-ish wrap-up of the attack.]

Montenegrin Journalists Beaten by Mayor

According to, journalist Mihailo Jovovic and photographer Boris Pejovic allege that they were beaten by Podgorica Mayor Miomir Mugosa, his son, and his driver while working on a story about the mayor's car being parked illegally in front of a cafe. The Montenegrin State Prosecutor's Office has filed criminal charges against the mayor's son and Jovovic.

The real surprise for me in this story is that they found someone actually working in Montenegro. Yeah, so I seriously only included this story because I wanted to post my favorite "Lazy Montenegrin" joke. I don't think Montenegrins are lazy or support portraying them as such, but this joke is awesome. Here it goes.

Montenegrins are so lazy, they have to marry pregnant women!

Islam Karimov has "The Worst Daughter in the World"

Foreign Policy Magazine has topped itself. Forget the Failed States Index. We give you: The World's Worst Daughters. Even better, our very own Gulnora Karimova -- daughter of Uzbek toughman Islam Karimov -- has scored the number one slot.

Take that Pinthongta Shinawatra of Thailand!

As FP puts it, when Karimova isn’t closing her ex-husband’s Coca-Cola bottling businesses out of spite, deporting his family “at gunpoint to Afghanistan,” or building an Uzbek tea empire, she’s sending “hooded men with machine guns to shut down a rival company and liquidate their holdings.”

But it’s not all guns, goons and ex-husbands for Karimova. She also has an gentle, artistic side.

“In recent years, Karimova has been focusing on her budding music career. A music video she recorded under the name GooGooSha, her father’s pet name for her, was in near-constant rotation on Uzbek MTV in 2006.”

This story is just too awesome for words.

(Thanks to Leopolis, for scouting out the list.)

Aug 6, 2009

Medvedev is Toast

This week marks the first anniversary of the Summer War between Russia and Georgia. At the time, we noted the curious discrepancy between Prime Minister Putin and President Medvedev’s public approach to the crisis. (Putting the Prime in Prime Minister.)

Putin was personally briefed by battlefield commanders as he watched the fighting from a forward observation post in North Ossetia. Meanwhile, Russia’s constitutional commander-in-chief was nowhere to be found. So how are we doing one year later? Not so good, if you’re on Team Medvedev.

Here’s Putin on "vacation," training to unseat Michael Phelps at the next Olympics:

And here’s Medvedev, investigating bread?

This has to be embarrassing. Couldn’t Medvedev's people at least get him a ride-along with a bomber?

His career is toast.

(Photo credit: Reuters)

Aug 5, 2009

How Russia Views Clinton's Trip to North Korea

Igor tipped us to this one...

From In Ernst We Trust over on Livejournal.

The Russian Obama

Is yahoo making up news now? These details are too weird. Here we go:

According to YahooNews, Joaquim Crima, a 37-year-old native of Guinea Bissau who settled in southern Russia after earning a degree at a local university is running for office in Srednyaya Akhtuba. He of course has been dubbed "The Russian Obama." Except, instead of winning his election, he will most probably lose.

Reasons he'll lose? Well experts say he lacks political capital and the connections. Others site Russia's rampant racism and the death of an African exchange student in the region last December. And one local resident says, "He hasn't lived all of our issues and he didn't grow up around us; he's not a kolkhoznik."

But Crima is moving forward with the campaign all the same. Recently he put up billboards that read "I will toil like a Negro" — a phrase Russians use to mean they will work hard. Fortunately, I could not find photos of said new billboards. Although, it seems from the billboard I did find, that he is running under the name Vasily Crima. I guess to show that he is one of the people.

Oh, Russia.

Aug 4, 2009

Happy Anniversary!

Oh, so it's not the anniversary of the Russian-Georgian conflict just yet, but it's coming up, and apparently we're exchanging gifts early. Oh, I mean horrible violence continues and we are exchanging accusations and insults. You know what, Eurasia, I enjoy writing stories about curing swine flu with whiskey and the like. You really don't have to injure or kill people in order to make it on Remont...

According to the NY Times, an explosion in Georgia close to its border with the breakaway region of S. Ossetia injured a 14-year-olf Georgian boy, as both Georgian and South Ossetian officials traded accusations of cross-border shelling. We'll definitely be on this situation as it continues to decay.

Whiskey for my men!

Um, so I can't stop laughing about this one. According to YahooNews, Russian soccer fans have been told to drink whiskey on their trip to Wales for next month's World Cup qualifier to ward off the H1N1 swine flu virus. This is not a joke. Said VOB head Aleksandr Shprygin:

"We urge our fans to drink a lot of Welsh whiskey as a form of disinfection. That should cure all symptoms of the disease."

Russians are UNBELIEVABLY misinformed about EVERYTHING! Why would people in charge encourage their citizens to get hammered and risk swine flu infection?! Oh wait there's a crazy reason for that, too. Said spokesman:

"We don't want our team to be without any support for such an important match so we urge our fans to go to Wales despite the health warning."

Aug 3, 2009

Let's Drink to All the Russian Gas

All your troubles will recede, if Gazprom is nearby.....

Erasing Stalin's Crimes, One Lawsuit at a Time

This one has to be a candidate for the most insane lawsuit of all-time (if only by the body count).

Eurasianet reports: "Evgeni Jughashvili, grandson of Georgia-born Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, has filed a lawsuit against the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, claiming that the periodical published material that damaged the 'dignity and honor' of Stalin's family. Citing fresh archival sources, a July 22 story in Novaya Gazeta that Stalin personally signed mass execution orders for the 1940 Katyn massacre in Poland. Jughashvili claimed that the article smeared the name of his grandfather."

You can read the libelous insult here.

In most countries, Jughashvili's case would be thrown out of court. By the same legal reasoning, someone could sue the Holocaust Museum for besmirching Hitler’s good name. But the Kremlin is despratly trying to rehabilitate Stalin's image these days.

Jughashvili might just succeed.